Containment: two regulars testify to their experience

Audio 04:23

Aerial view of Place de l'Étoile in Paris, deserted during confinement, April 4, 2020. REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol

By: Marie Casadebaig

Confinement is an ordeal experienced at the same time by 4 billion human beings. If for some it is a more or less simple situation to live, others are used to this confinement and have even chosen it. A cloistered nun and a former submariner testify.


For 14 years, Mathieu, a 42-year-old submariner officer, has increased the number of missions aboard SNLE, nuclear-powered submarine launchers. We are there in extreme confinement. Sixty days immersed with no possibility of return before the end of the patrol with 120 people locked in a device of 130 meters long. Almost no contact with the outside world, apart from receiving 40 words a week from the family.

The days of submariners are full, but in such a limited setting, you can quickly lose track of time unless you organize it. I believe that it is very important to create a routine that should not be seen as a constraint, but as a way to rhythm and schedule your day. "Says Mathieu. Then he adds: " To avoid having the impression of reliving the same day, it is important to do a second routine on a weekly basis. You have to differentiate between days and reserve certain activities for certain days. For example, when we are on patrol, we mark Sunday well. But during the week also there can be “themed” meals organized on a special evening of the week. "

A confinement which imposes a monastic rhythm

Create events, to avoid monotony. This is also what the Clarisse sisters of the monastery of Abobo, in the suburbs of Abidjan, do. There are 25 of them living cloistered there. Among them, Sister Myriam, who has belonged to this Catholic community for almost 40 years. Côte d'Ivoire imposes a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

For her, it is as if her whole country had set to a monastic rhythm. " From January 1 to December 31, people are constantly in the maquis, the restaurants, and sometimes we wonder when they take the time to think a little about their lives, " she says. " But today, here it is, done. We have to be at home, to stop. I say to myself, for families, you have to learn to do skits. We must learn to enhance our days. We at the monastery do it! We decide to play this part of the bible, we decide to play African tales, we try to imitate our grandmothers ... We make life in the monastery pleasant. "

The Benefits of Working During Containment

For Sister Myriam, the other key to unconstrained confinement is work. His days are, in fact, punctuated by prayer times and times devoted to the manufacture of soap and bleach; enough to have busy days.

But when she talks about the benefits of work, she is not just talking about gainful work. For her, “ work is part of what makes us bigger. Each man must give himself a job even if there are some who need to work under the leisure mode. To create comic books, scenarios ... Whether you live it as a pleasure or as a duty, you have to have work, ”said Sister Myriam.

Know how to manage your emotions

Common difficulties for Sister Myriam and Mathieu, the former submariner; they had to learn to manage their emotions in order to live promiscuity and community life at best. There is also a point, raised by Mathieu, and which almost all the people currently confined know, is not knowing when this situation will end. The submariners know that their missions will last approximately two months, but the date of return is not specified until a few days before the commander ends the patrol. Uncertainty difficult to grasp.

The wisest attitude which is adopted by all the sailors on board is quite simply to prepare for the worst, and therefore to imagine the maximum duration of a patrol. That said, once the return date is known, the effects of an extension, even of a few days, are sometimes amazing. After 60 days, doing another 5 to 6 days can be extremely difficult for some sailors to accept and cause quite significant declines in morale , ”notes Mathieu. Then he made another observation: " I think that notice is very important in fact to allow time to mentally reconfigure, and also to complain a bit because we are French. Anyway once you're in the box, you're in the box. I think it should be remembered that the days do not always have the same weight: five days at the beginning are not like five days at the end. "

The two containment professionals think that there is something to be gained from this experience, but admit that they made the choice when most of us undergo it and live it in extremely privileged conditions.

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